LONDON: Britain’s coalition government replaced the minister responsible for Scottish affairs yesterday less than a year before Scotland votes on whether to become independent, signalling a change in campaign tactics.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, their junior coalition partner the Liberal Democrats and the main opposition Labour Party are all campaigning to maintain the status quo, which grants Scotland broad autonomy within Britain.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which runs a devolved government in Edinburgh, is seeking full independence, arguing that the country of five million people can achieve greater prosperity by going it alone.
Opinion polls show a majority of Scots would reject independence in a referendum scheduled for September 18, 2014, but as the vote approaches, Cameron’s government wants to sharpen its campaign strategy.
Cameron’s office said it had appointed Alistair Carmichael, 48, as the new Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing Michael Moore, also 48. Both men are from the Liberal Democrats, which has 11 lawmakers representing Scottish constituencies in the Westminster parliament in London, compared to just one from Cameron’s Conservatives.
“We now need to draw on different experience in the final year running up to the referendum itself,” Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, told Moore in a letter seen by Reuters.